In the style of Noises Off, the fictional Black Rubix Theatre (actually some of the students in the Queen Mary Theatre Company) attempts to put on what they think is a biting satire on the modern media, though really it’s a load of weak and stereotyped noir-ish nonsense. Simon, the lead actor, finds himself edged out of the spotlight by errors from the tech desk, a missing co-star and a dramatic rival who can’t remember what name to use. A comic disaster thereby ensues.
Except it really doesn’t. The cast have done a decent job on the blocking and staging - the audience sit on three sides, the cast only ever play to two - but the whole show could go a lot further. The mistakes are far too obviously scripted, particularly those that depend on a tech or scene change mishap. Moreover, while we get to see a lot of deliberately bad acting, generally either overly-gestural or declamatory, there’s very little sense of the bad actor characters, who are equally caricatured and unbelievable. With the bad-acting joke made painfully clear in the first twenty minutes, the show as a whole needs something more to give it pace. Ultimately, the leap of belief needed to view the performance as a play genuinely going down the pan is too wide to make.
However, that doesn’t mean that the show isn’t enjoyable. One moment involving coffee cups demonstrates near-perfect farce, reminiscent of Victoria Wood’s Acorn Antiques - it becomes obvious what has to happen very quickly but the cast drag out the wait for the punchline superbly until the audience can’t help but guffaw. The stage manager desperately rushing about the space brings the most realistic performance to the show and earns many a chuckle from an audience familiar with the frenetic get-outs of Fringe. The audience interaction is handled well, while introducing a much needed unknown quantity to proceedings. At one point an audience member wandered off stage with a prop and had to be cajoled into giving it back, producing one of the loudest laughs of the show. A few more moments of improvisation would give much needed spontaneity to the show and I believe the cast are capable enough to handle that extra burden. Until they truly test themselves, however, this remains a show that could be better, could be worse and should be both.